18 February 2020

Cat

Cat Stevens in 1971
From mid-August !972 I lived on a faraway island called Rotuma. There was no electricity, no running water and no sewers.  I lived with my late American friend Richard in the village of Motusa. Richard had brought  a radio-cassette player to the island from his home in Minneapolis along with a dozen cassettes. One of them was "Teaser and the Firecat" by Cat Stevens.

We played those cassettes over and over again on dark South Pacific nights as our hurricane lamp flickered and waves rumbled in the darkness on the edge of the coral reef. Cat Stevens was a brilliant songsmith and in my extraordinarily humble opinion it is a crying shame that he later  turned to Islam. He had a precious knack and it is certain that many more great songs would have emerged from him had he not opted for medieval religious belief and all that that entailed.

Tonight, as I came home from  the quiz at "The Hammer and Pincers", I found myself singing quietly and the song was "How Can I Tell You" from the album mentioned above. Some would refer to it as an "ear worm". A simple, heartfelt song. I am sure that some of you out there in the blogospherw will remember it.  Here it is:-

40 comments:

  1. WoW, I really do think we are brother and sister, sometimes. I absolutely adore the music of Cat Stevens or Yusuf Islam, his later identity. What a voice! Although I reveled in American Folk music, his countenance and words were so close to that.... well, I loved his music. Even now.

    I do not fault anyone for following their spiritual or soulful road. Never. Even tho that is not where I would have ever thought of going in my mind or heart, I do not fault those who do follow that path.

    The Princess and her consort visited England last week and I have to say, you did not treat them well this time. They were stuck in a palace/hotel for the first storm because of road closures, etc and barely made it out of the airport before the latest one on Saturday/Sunday. Hope you and The Lady are comfortable ... and dry!

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    1. I am very sorry to learn that Princess Meghan and Consort Harry were greeted with nasty weather. February is rarely the best of months over here. By the way it does not surprise me that you are also a little haunted by Cat Stevens.

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  2. I love Cat Stevens too, his voice and his face. He had two brushes with death that lead him down the path of finding a religion that worked for him, sad for the rest of the world but good for him apparently. Rotuma sounds like an interesting place to live for awhile. The most exotic place I've ever lived is Alberta, pretty much my whole life. Sad but true.

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    1. Please see the Shakespeare quotation at the head of this blog Lily.

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    2. A part of me wishes I had had a more adventurous life but only a small part. I wanted children and I had my children. Katie changed everything. My ex-husband told me once that I wasn't fun anymore after Katie was born. Maybe not but I did become much more compassionate. I didn't understand loss and grief until I had her. So not an exotic life but I'm okay with that now. Besides, life seems to be the same wherever you are. I didn't understand that when I was young either.

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    3. Some people rush around and don't see or feel a thing. I remember staying in a youth hostel in Dublin in 1974. I overheard two American backpackers talking about "doing Europe" and the number of countries they had each ticked off. It seemed to me that hadn't truly visited any of those countries - not properly.

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  3. Oh my, I have also been a big lover of his music and still have several of his albums (yes, vinyl). He had a very special voice and style.

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    1. Vinyl? What's that? I thought it was a floor covering!

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  4. I was never much of fan of Cat Stevens...and much less so when he turned to Islam.

    A friend had the LP "Tea for the Tillerman" when it was first released...but I was never tempted to purchase a copy for myself.

    We each have our own individual likes and dislikes...as in most things. :)

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    1. That's true. For me there was a magical simplicity to much of Cat Stevens's work.

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  5. He's touring England and even playing Cork this summer. Cambridge Folk Festival too. The tickets are very expensive though.

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    1. I knew that he had come back to music. I wonder if he will play the old songs.

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  6. When some of Cat Stevens' songs were popular on the radio, I was about 10 - 12 years old; I liked some of them but never thought of spending my pocket money on his records or cassettes.
    How many batteries did Richard's cassette recorder consume on that island without electricity, I wonder?
    It was Quiz Night at my local last night, too, and for the first time in the history of my team (The Corner Shop), we were a Ladies Only team - not by choice, but by circumstances. We came 3rd so were doing well and had a fun night out, with my Mum at 75 maybe the oldest person in the pub that evening.

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    1. You are right about the batteries. We only used that player to listen to the daily news on Radio Fiji and to those cassettes - but as you know Americans are very rich! How many quiz teams were you competing with?

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    2. Oh, I don't know - I estimate there were about 20, the pub was packed (as it always is on quiz night).

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    3. I thought that there might be just three teams!

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  7. Has the fatwa been issued? The First Cut Is The Deepest.

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    1. I recognise that it is politically correct to pass no comment on religious belief but as far as I am concerned all religion is nonsensical apart from worship of The Great God of the East - Hull City A.F.C..

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  8. Love his voice, just played ' I Love My Dog' and Lady D'Arbanville is playing as I write! And whilst listening looked for the Flying Spaghetti Monster religion and then came across Betrand Russell's 'Teapot' think I shall write about that soon.

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    1. I loved "Lady D'Arbanville" from the first time I heard it. The American model Patti D'Arbanville also inspired another great song - "Wild World". Is is indeed a "wild world" Thelma, don't you agree?

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  9. Oh, he was so pretty! Those eyes!
    Funny. When I did my "tour of Europe" when I was seventeen/eighteen we had one of his cassettes on the bus and it played over and over and we loved it every time. Tea for the Tillerman.
    His songs were so beautiful.
    I think a friend of mine played violin on his first album when he made a little comeback as Yusuf Islam.
    I am pretty sure that somewhere in my shelves of actual albums there are a few of Cat's. I should go explore.

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    1. Hard to think that he enjoyed his musical heyday almost fifty years ago! Can you believe it? "Father and Son" was one of my favourites - I used to play and sing it.

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  10. I liked Cat Stevens. Although I miss him and some great songs were never be written , I respect his opinion and choice.

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    1. You have a bigger heart than me Red.

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    1. I am so sorry! I expressed distaste for all religions - not just Islam! Please remove the fatwa.

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  12. Forgot just how pretty he was

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  13. I fell down the internet well listening to music from all his early albums yesterday and didn't even have time to come back and leave a comment. The shocking part of this is that I found I no longer love his music as I did during the early 70's. I was a big fan back than, but haven't listened to anything of his since. I feel a bit bereft by my reaction. I think the song you have here (How Can I Tell You) is one that did stand the test of time, but for me the others did not. In contrast, I've listened to a lot of Queen and the Beach Boys (Pet Sounds in particular) through the magic of the internet the past couple of years, which I did not listen to in their heyday, and really like it now. Strange. Do our tastes in music change through the years? I didn't think mine would but have had to reconsider.

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    1. "Pet Sounds" was and is a wonderful album. I saw The Beach Boys in concert once - at an open air pop festival and they smashed it! Magical harmonies and so beautifully Californian. Indeed why can't they all be Californian girls?

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  14. I had Cat Stevens tapes with me in Morocco, too! I guess it's the thing to listen to when you're doing international aid work. :) He was a terrific singer and songwriter, and I still get a lot of joy from his music. I don't mind the Islam thing, as long as he feels happy and fulfilled. We have one of his books on Islam in our library -- signed!

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    1. Are you thinking of becoming one too Steve? You will need a new outfit...perhaps with a red fez too.

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  15. Oh, I remember Cat Stevens from the 70s too. I don't think I ever had any of his albums in full though (i.e. on vinyl). Probably had some of his "hits" recorded on cassette tapes from the radio, though - which is what one did back in those days, before HiFi and WiFi ...

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    1. Probably like you I was rather obsessed with music in those days. It is not the same now. I can take it or leave it.

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  16. Cat was a huge part of my emotional life as a student in the 70s. When I hear him sing I am instantly transported back to the pangs of first love and can see the poster I foolishly gifted that boy along with my heart.. My husband is 6 years younger and loves his music for his own memories so Cat has never been off our playlist over the last 40 years and has found fans in the next generation too. Daughter and Dad went to see him sing last year when he came to support Christchurch after the Mosque killings.
    Youtube is a wonderful way of bringing the past to life and enjoying again those voices gone but not forgotten. Last night it was John Denver and John Lennon. Wish we would all give Peace a chance... thanks for the memory.

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  17. You must have chewed through batteries for the cassette player!

    i don't really know Cat Stevens and I'm not going to listen now because I have Ladysmith Black Mambazo playing and it will feel wrong to change right now but later I'll have a listen

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